HE swapped the land of the long white cloud for the land of the rising sun, and his international path will this month take former Poverty Bay player Michael Broadhurst to a career-pinnacle Rugby World Cup.
Campion College old boy Broadhurst is in the 31-strong Japan national team for the 2015 RWC, which kicks off on September 19 (NZ time).
The 1.96-metre, 112-kilogram loose forward, who has been playing in Japan since 2009, qualified for the Cherry Blossoms in 2012 through residency.
He has since established himself as a first-string forward, racking up 20 caps, the most recent of those in a 40-0 win over RWC-bound Uruguay in Tokyo at the weekend.
Japan coach Eddie Jones officially announced the squad on Monday and they left for England the following day.
They have a warm-up match against Georgia at Gloucester, then open their RWC account against South Africa in Brighton on September 20, followed by pool games against Scotland (in Gloucester), Samoa (Milton Keynes) and the United States (London).
The name Broadhurst has been prominent in New Zealand rugby news of late. Michael’s younger brother and lock James made his All Blacks debut in a 27-20 win over South Africa in Johannesburg after a stellar Super Rugby season with the Hurricanes.
But while it was a long shot that James would make the All Blacks RWC squad, his brother was almost a certainty for Japan following his impressive international form for the national side.
This included the November 2013 test match against the All Blacks in Tokyo. Many thought Broadhurst was the Japan’s best in their 54-6 defeat.
He was also in the team who created history in June of 2013 when Japan beat Wales for the first time, 23-8, with Broadhurst among the tryscorers.
Important Gisborne connectionBroadhurst’s rugby journey had an important Gisborne step. His family shifted here in 2003 when father Ian got a job as forest manager at JNL.
The Kaitaia-born boys — and sister Katherine — attended Campion and both were members of the first 15.
Michael, after leaving school, studied agriculture in Hawke’s Bay then got work as a shepherd on the East Coast where he played club rugby for Tokomaru Bay.
In 2008 he joined Ngatapa in the Poverty Bay premier club competition, despite still working on the Coast. He made an immediate impact, winning the inaugural Tiny White Medal for player of the opening day.
Ngatapa went on to win the Lee Bros Shield premier title and Broadhurst’s form at No.8 saw him selected for Poverty Bay for the Heartland Championship.
The Bay won the Lochore Cup (Heartland bottom six) final, Broadhurst made the New Zealand Heartland squad for a two-match tour of the United States and he was also named the Bay’s player of the year.
He headed to Japan the next year to play for the Ricoh Black Rams in the Top League, and has been there since.
Broadhurst has another strong Gisborne connection through wife Annabel (nee Butt), daughter of Gisborne farmers David and Annie.
They have two children and a third due in December, so Annabel will watch her husband in action from the comfort of her parents’ Matawai farm.
Annabel told The Herald yesterday that they were still based in Japan but were looking at returning to the district to live.
Broadhurst is one of a group of import players in the Japan squad for the RWC. The team is captained by former Chiefs flanker Michael Leitch and also feature former Kangaroos league international Craig Wing and veteran New Zealand-born loose forward Luke Thompson.
When questioned about the number of imported players in his squad, Jones said “you’re asking the wrong person”.
“We’ve got approximately 42 players in Japan who are capable of playing international rugby. That’s all I can pick from,” he said.
“It’s not my job to develop (Japan-born) international players.”